SC shifts ‘complex Gyanvapi case’ to Varanasi district judge | India News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday shifted the trial of a suit by Hindu parties seeking enforcement of their right to worship inside Varanasi’s Gyanvapi mosque from civil judge (senior division) to the district judge, even as it observed that the survey of a structure to ascertain its religious nature is not barred under the Protection of Places of Worship Act, 1991.
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, Surya Kant and P S Narasimha said whether Hindus can be allowed to worship at Gyanvapi mosque involved complex and sensitive issues that needed to be dealt with a seasoned judicial hand and ordered the Varanasi district judge to decide on priority the plea of the Committee of Management, Anjuman Intezamia Masjid, Varanasi, under Order 7 Rule 11 of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC), challenging maintainability of the suit by five Hindu women seeking to worship Goddess Shringar Gauri and other deities inside the mosque complex.

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Appearing for the mosque management, senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi repeatedly argued that the SC should scrap the suit and interim orders by the trial court, including the direction for a survey, as it was a “mischievous” attempt by plaintiffs to change the character of the mosque existing for the last 500 years.
“Look at the mischief being perpetrated through selective leak of the court commissioner’s survey report. Now the mischief is being created for four to five other mosques. This disturbs communal harmony,” Ahmadi said.
When senior advocates C S Vaidyanathan and Ranjit Kumar took strong objection to Ahmadi’s pleadings, the bench orally observed, “Putting a cross on a Zoroastrian religious place would not change the latter’s character. This is true for the reverse case scenario. Survey of a structure is to ascertain its religious nature. That is not prohibited under the Protection of Places of Worship Act, 1991.
The bench emphasised that a hybrid religious character of places of worship is not unknown to India. “Ascertaining the religious character of a place through a procedure known to law will not fall foul of the 1991 Act,” the bench said and adjourned the hearing to July second week.
However, the bench said the district judge’s decision on the mosque management committee’s application for scrapping of the suit would remain in limbo for eight weeks to allow aggrieved parties to appeal before an appropriate judicial forum.
During this period, that is from May 20 till eight weeks after the district judge’s decision, the SC’s May 17 interim order — directing protection of the area where the purported shivling was discovered by the court commissioner during the survey and the unhindered access of Muslims to offer namaz in the mosque — would remain in force, the bench said.
Ahmadi pleaded that the shivling, purportedy found inside the wuzu khana area (ablution pond), could be protected. However, he demanded access of Muslims to the area surrounding the structure, which is a pond with water taps on side walls for performance of wuzu (ablution) by Muslims, as has been done for the last 500 years.
For the UP government, solicitor general Tushar Mehta said such permission would give rise to a grave law-and-order situation. “An alternative area for wuzu should be provided in consultation with parties,” he said. The bench directed the Varanasi district magistrate to provide for wuzu facility in the mosque in consultation with parties.
The SC also said that the May 16 interim order of the civil judge (senior division) Ravi Kumar Diwakar directing protection of purported shivling area would be “subsumed” by the Supreme Court’s interim May 17 order giving similar direction in addition to specifying that Muslims would have free access to the mosque for namaz purposes.
Ahmadi drew the court’s attention to the selective leak of the court commissioner’s report, including the purported discovery of the shivling, which the Muslim side referred to as a fountain. He said this mischief is to create a narrative and disturb communal harmony in the country.
“Look at the fallout of entertaining such a suit in gross violation of provisions of the 1991 Act. Already similar mischief is being attempted in relation to 4-5 other mosques. Because of the selective leaks, the trial court has ordered protection of an area which had been used for the last 500 years by Muslims for the purpose of wuzu. Now iron gates have been erected all around it,” he complained.
The SC said the local commissioner’s report could only be opened by the trial court and decried the selective leaks. It said, “Maintaining a balance and communal harmony is the need of the hour. There should be a certain degree of calmness and need for prevalence of a sense of balance on the ground.”

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